an orphaned state of mind

July 31, 2016 § Leave a comment

I have been dealing with chronic pain in my hip, back and shoulders. Yesterday I finally went to the chiropractor after the combined effects of moving an entire library up a flight of stairs, stumbling and falling on a cement sidewalk while running with my dog, and loading half a dozen 50 lb. bags of cement onto a construction site. When the chiropractor checked the musculature in my shoulders he was surprised at how tense they were. He worked on releasing some of that tension and I left feeling relief and gained new awareness about the toll my body is sustaining from stress about family of origin.

I woke up this morning for the first time in a week without a big ball of pain between my shoulder blades. I lay there feeling comfortable and warm. Thoughts of my family of origin drifted into my mind and I realized how much tension I accumulate on a daily basis due to un-grieved loss of family connection and the pain of not belonging in my family. It was as if there were these invisible filaments of longing radiating out of my body, searching, constantly searching, for connection. Remember the Chrysalids by John Whyndam? At the end of the novel, the Sealanders come in air ships to rescue the telepaths as they flee a group of villagers. Just as the telepaths are about to be captured by the villagers, the Sealanders rain sticky drifting filaments onto the scene that coats everyone in suffocating cocoons. I imagine the filaments radiating out from my body in a similar way, except mine hang in space, helpless, useless, constantly seeking connection and never finding it. In that moment I could clearly see how my yearning for family was causing the tension and pain in my body.

I have been thinking about the state of being an orphan, even in the midst of a large public family that show public displays of affection through music performance. I have been thinking of this state as a form of amputation, an emotional absence that never, ever seems to dissolve into the background. If my real state in life is that of an orphan, whose amputation from family is never openly acknowledged and actively denied, then the pain can never become softened by time. The current condition is what is so painful, not a historic event that can eventually drift into obscurity with the passing of years. I don’t know what it is like to lose a limb, but I do know what it is like to lose a family, a family that is all around me but disconnected from me.

My clarity this morning is confirming my resolve to block all incoming email from my family. I am no longer willing to continue putting out those feelers. My mental exercise this morning is to imagine myself cutting those sticky ties whenever they start to drift out from my body. To allow myself to feel the pain of disconnection and move on with my life. I do have people in my life today that love me and that I love in return. I am no longer willing to carry the pain and suffer the distraction of these non-functioning family relationships. I have more important things to attend to.

I am feeling better today. With each passing day I am noticing my creative energies are invigorated. Yes, my body hurts, but now it is a pain that is right sized and appropriate. It hurts to have to say good bye to family. It feels good to turn my attention to people and projects that reciprocate my contributions.

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awareness and processing

June 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

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breaking up with family

June 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have been dealing with chronic pain in my hip, back and shoulders. Yesterday I finally went to the chiropractor after the combined effects of moving an entire library up a flight of stairs, stumbling and falling on a cement sidewalk while running with my dog, and loading half a dozen 50 lb. bags of cement onto a construction site. When the chiropractor checked the musculature in my shoulders he was surprised at how tense they were. He worked on releasing some of that tension and I left feeling relief and gained new awareness about the toll my body is sustaining from stress about family of origin.

I woke up this morning for the first time in a week without a big ball of pain between my shoulder blades. I lay there feeling comfortable and warm. Thoughts of my family of origin drifted into my mind and I realized how much tension I accumulate on a daily basis due to un-grieved loss of family connection and the pain of not belonging in my family. It was as if there were these invisible filaments of longing radiating out of my body, searching, constantly searching, for connection. Remember the Chrysalids by John Whyndam? At the end of the novel, the Sealanders come in air ships to rescue the telepaths as they flee a group of villagers. Just as the telepaths are about to be captured by the villagers, the Sealanders rain sticky drifting filaments onto the scene that coats everyone in suffocating cocoons. I imagine the filaments radiating out from my body in a similar way, except mine hang in space, helpless, useless, constantly seeking connection and never finding it. In that moment I could clearly see how my yearning for family was causing the tension and pain in my body. 

I have been thinking about the state of being an orphan, even in the midst of a large public family that show public displays of affection through music performance. I have been thinking of this state as a form of amputation, an emotional absence that never, ever seems to dissolve into the background. If my real state in life is that of an orphan, whose amputation from family is never openly acknowledged and actively denied, then the pain can never become softened by time. The current condition is what is so painful, not a historic event that can eventually drift into obscurity with the passing of years. I don’t know what it is like to lose a limb, but I do know what it is like to lose a family, a family that is all around me but disconnected from me.

My clarity this morning is confirming my resolve to block all incoming email from my family. I am no longer willing to continue putting out those feelers. My mental exercise this morning is to imagine myself cutting those sticky ties whenever they start to drift out from my body. To allow myself to feel the pain of disconnection and move on with my life. I do have people in my life today that love me and that I love in return. I am no longer willing to carry the pain and suffer the distraction of these non-functioning family relationships. I have more important things to attend to.

I am feeling better today. With each passing day I am noticing my creative energies are invigorated. Yes, my body hurts, but now it is a pain that is right sized and appropriate. It hurts to have to say good bye to family. It feels good to turn my attention to people and projects that reciprocate my contributions.

growing out of a manipulative family

June 14, 2014 § Leave a comment

It is very difficult to identify the grey areas in relationships where boundaries are ignored or invaded. In my family of origin, the boundary violations take the form of shapeless absence. It doesn’t matter what boundaries I set, because no one in my family has the capacity to actually form the interest necessary to sustain an intimate relationship with me. Over 18 years, since I first came into recovery and began the task of repairing my relationships with my family of origin, I have made regular, periodic efforts to grow new relationships with various family members. On looking back, I can see that these efforts were entirely my one-sided attempts to build new connections. The situation, at present, is that there will be no meaningful contact from my family for months on end. When there is contact, it takes the form of gig notices and invitations to family dinner parties. I don’t attend the gigs because I grew tired of my designated family role as, “audience member”. I don’t attend the family dinner parties anymore because I don’t have any basis for a connection with my family that would encourage me to want to attend. In fact, the opposite is true, both I, and my husband, have had very unpleasant experiences at these family gatherings and we have decided not to attend any more unless there is an opportunity to discuss what happened at past events and assure us that these kinds of situations won’t happen again.

I came across this article in Psychology Today, “How to Spot and Stop Manipulators” by Preston Ni. Although I would not have thought of my family members as manipulative before reading this article, I am now questioning if that isn’t my deepest discomfort in dealing with them. I do experience my family’s insistence on very narrow, constrained modes of communication as a form of mental distortion and emotional exploitation. After all, isn’t their collective behaviour a form of shunning, which is indeed a deeply psychological harm. I know that I would be welcome back into the family fold in an instant if I would only agree to think and behave as the rest of the family does, that is, to not share any personal information of any emotional depth, to maintain appearances of a healthy, happy, successful family, and to spread only good news about our accomplishments and those of our offspring.

I find the social, emotional and cultural constraints imposed by members of my family as suffocating and destructive. I just cannot do it. So, yes, I conclude that my family is highly manipulative, to the point that they would shun me and leave me out of the family picture rather than contemplate, for a moment, my need and interest in growing new, authentically healthy family relationships.

working from home

June 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m not going in to work today. On the surface my reason for staying home is that my husband injured his back yesterday and he is stuck in bed. That is a good reason – he can’t get to the kitchen for food or drink. He can barely crawl to the bathroom. 

Another reason I am staying home today is that I also injured my hip last week. I decided to move our entire library of shelves and books from the main floor to our upstairs bedroom. It took two days of moving laundry baskets full of books and shelves up a steep flight of stairs. Every morning this week I have awoken with a knot in the middle of my shoulder blades and my right hip hurts just sitting. Today I will take the time to go to the chiropractor. It doesn’t help that my work involves lifting heavy planks, climbing up and down ladders, and moving heavy equipment.

It isn’t as if I am going to be lazing around for the day. I still have to work on my dissertation, which I will start after I walk the dogs.

haunted by family

June 13, 2014 § Leave a comment

Today I was aware of how many times I thought about my family of origin: my mother, my father, my sister, and each of my four brothers. The quality of these thoughts make me think of what it is like to be haunted – ghostly presence that hovers in my peripheral vision but dissolves when I turn my gaze on them. The themes of these thoughts are cyclical and familiar. First, I think about a family member and wonder if the distant I am choosing is the right thing to do. I go over every permutation of the relationship trying to figure out where I might be making a fatal error in my positioning. Second, I think about what I wish I could say to a family member if I could have free reign to be emotionally honest and grow the relationship I wish I could have. Third, I wonder whether I should contact a family member and if was to contact them, what form should that contact take: phone, email, hard copy letter; and what the content of that contact should include: just saying hi, checking in, problem solving, digging into family history, explaining myself and the distant I feel, etc. Which leads me back to the first thought cluster to go through another round with another family member.

It always turns out the same – I conclude that no good can come of it and I will not attempt to change anything for the time being.

Whenever my mind is not actively engaged in some other form of focus, it turns to this particular cluster and chases the chimera of family from one dusty corner to the next, never, ever pinning it down or making a connection.

The truth of the matter is that no one from my family will call me, write to me, or try to build a relationship with me. So all this mental exercise is really a process to spend the unrequited love I wish I could give my family but there is no one there interested to receive it.

living with PTSD

June 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

I am now 58 years old and I have been living with post traumatic stress disorder since I was a young child. I wasn’t diagnosed with PTSD until I was in my mid-40s when I sought therapy for escalating anxiety. I have been trying to get my family to talk about our shared history since I came into recovery for alcohol and drug abuse in 1996. Although everyone in my family has some form of alcohol, drug, anxiety, depression or obsessive compulsive disorder, it has been almost impossible to get any of them to talk honestly about their current condition or the circumstances that contributed to it. All my life I have questioned my own state of mind because there was no affirmation or validation of my experience. Everyday I have to work to remember that I am not crazy, that there are good reasons that I have this condition, and that my family’s collective denial of problems does not mean that problems do not exist. Because I was open about my problems, I became the problem in my family system. So, to save myself and my sanity, I have had to put distance between my hard won but fragile sanity, and the casual cruelty of insanity that pervades my family of origin. It is not so difficult to live with post traumatic stress disorder. It is impossible to live with people who deny the legitimacy of living with the condition.

 

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